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Creativity coach, writing and creative process instructor, speaker, author of Around the Writer's Block: Using Brain Science to Write the Way You Want (Penguin/Tarcher 2012) and Dancing in the Dragon's Den (Red Wheel Weiser), Teaching Artist at the Loft Literary Center.

This Is the Writing Life; That’s Resistance! Part 1

Normal incubation or resistance? It's not always easy to tell.

Normal incubation or resistance? It's not always easy to tell.

It’s not always easy to tell when you’re resisting your writing and when you’re in the throes of the creative process. A certain amount of what looks like procrastination (one of the more popular forms of resistance) is actually incubation, which is a normal part of the creative process.

There are times when you’ve done all the research to cultivate an idea, but you just can’t seem to get all the pieces to fit together. Every writer I know gets frustrated when we just can’t seem to make the writing work, but this is exactly the challenge that makes the ‘a-ha’ moment so satisfying.  The incubation we do at these times is what makes it possible to reach that ‘a-ha’ moment.

During this incubation stage, you need to distract your conscious mind with some other activity to allow the creative part of your brain to play with the pieces until they fall into place. It may look like procrastination, but it’s actually an important part of the process.


The tricky bit is figuring out what part of not-writing is normal and what’s resistance. You can’t go by how it feels since you could be uncomfortable in either scenario. And some forms of resistance are sneaky enough that you might think you’re just incubating until weeks have gone by and you realize you can’t even remember what it was you were supposedly incubating.


How do you distinguish between normal incubation and actual resistance? My next post will provide some of my observations; please send comments about how you know when you’re in the throes of the creative process and when you’re resisting your writing!

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8 Comments on “This Is the Writing Life; That’s Resistance! Part 1”

  1. Robin April 26, 2009 at 4:29 pm #


    Nice blog!

    RE Fay’s question about substituting “write” with art”–as I read today’s post, I can easily substitute “write” with “work”as I know even when I’m not doing it, my inner worker IS. There’s such freedom in stepping away and trusting the inspiration to appear.

    Thank you Rosanne, for helping us writers-in-waiting; I look forward to your continued support and wisdom.


    • rosannebane April 27, 2009 at 2:15 pm #

      Thanks Robin. I suspect the reason you can so easily substitute “work” for “write” is because your work is so creative and you’re aware of your creativity.


  2. Jackie April 25, 2009 at 3:18 am #

    This is fabulous! I just started a month long writing class and although I had time the last to days to write it took me forever to settle in. I spent hours waisting writing time, cleaning, walking dogs, writing a letter to a friend. Geez it was amazing just to watch myself. This resistance is SO REAL! Your blog is really going to help me. Thanks Rosanne I can hardly wait to hear more and to visit your web site.


    • rosannebane April 25, 2009 at 2:20 pm #

      Thanks Jackie. Yes, when you pay attention it’s pretty amazing how many ways the resistance can show up. Fortunately, sometimes it’s just initial inertia — like Newton said a body at rest tends to stay at rest, a person not writing tends to continue not writing… until we give it that extra ‘umph’ to get started.


  3. Lee April 25, 2009 at 12:01 am #

    Any creative process involves flow forward, flow backward, and no flow. I find that if I provide myself a few cues…pen, paper, notebook or crayons and just start messing around…..like trying dresses or bras on in a dressing room…it all seems to get unplugged and I feel movement. The more I can connect to messing around and then movement, the more successful I feel…even though the results are nothing that needs to be brought to the light of day. I just trust the process.


  4. Fay April 24, 2009 at 8:38 pm #

    I like the length of the post.

    My resistance isn’t with writing it is with painting/art work. How do I know I am resisting painting? When I go on vacation three times, twice for a month and once for 6 weeks and take tons of painting materials with me and don’t do a thing.

    Do you think I can just substitute the word art for writing in most of your posts?


    • rosannebane April 27, 2009 at 3:06 pm #

      Yes you can substitute the word ‘art’ for ‘writing’ in most of my posts. Many of the resistance issues writers face are faced by other artists. While this blog is focused on writers and writing resistance, my book Dancing in the Dragon’s Den and my newsletter Imagination InkLinks are both for all creative people. (You can find more info on either of these at my website http://www.RosanneBane.com )

      By the way, I suggest my students and clients leave their writing at home when they’re on vacation if they want to develop a professional attitude about their writing. If your painting is a hobby, it’s great to take it on vacation. If painting is something you want to make part of your vocation (remember you don’t have to be paid to make a creative contribution to the world), make and keep regular appointments for your painting. You don’t take your day-job work on vacation; don’t take your creative work either.


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